The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

October 6, 2013

Families hoard cash five years after crisis

(Continued)

"Little stupid things that I would buy left and right ... I don't buy anymore," he says.

Even the rich are spending cautiously and saving more.

Five years ago, Mike Cockrell, chief financial officer at Sanderson Farms, a large U.S. poultry producer, had just paid off the mortgage on his home in Laurel, Miss. He was looking forward to having extra money to spend. Then came the financial crisis, and he decided to put the extra cash into savings. "Earning nothing, just like everyone else, " Cockrell says.

"I watched the news of the stock market going down 100, 200 points a day, and I was glad I had cash," he says, recalling the steep drops in the Dow during the crisis. "That strategy will not change."

The wealthiest 1 percent of U.S. households are saving 30 percent of their take-home pay, triple what they were saving in 2008, according to a July report from American Express Publishing and Harrison Group, a research firm.

Steve Crosby, head of wealth management at PricewaterhouseCoopers, says that when he talks to the rich, he's reminded of his grandparents who held tight to their cash decades after they lost money in the Great Depression. He expects the financial crisis will haunt his clients for a long time, too.

"There was a scar, and it's measured in half-lives, just like radioactivity," Crosby says. "People want control."

____

THE FUTURE

The good news is that after years of living with less, paying debts and saving more, many people have repaired their personal finances.

Americans have slashed their credit card debt to 2002 levels, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In the U.K., personal bank loans, not including mortgages, are no larger than they were in 1999, according to the British Bankers' Association.

People have recouped some losses from the crisis, too. In France, the value of financial assets held by households is 15 percent above its previous peak, according to the OECD. And the value of homes, the biggest asset for most families, is rising again in some countries.

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